The Laguna Art Museum's director of marketing and public relations for the past six years, Stuart Byer, has announced his resignation.
Byer, who worked part-time for the museum, gave notice in early December to ensure that the institution had enough time to find a suitable replacement. He chose a Feb. 15 end date in order to complete his work on the museum's upcoming Feb. 10 art auction.
"It's been a tremendously rewarding experience; one that I'll always value," Byer said.
"He has a great mind, strategically, and has a vested interest in Laguna Beach; he really understands a lot about how the town works, and helped us to know it better," said museum director Bolton Colburn.
Byer said he plans to pursue his own passions while continuing to work with area nonprofits on a project basis.
"Museums are sort of like a merry-go-round," Byer said. "There's a time to jump off, and when you do so, not significantly impact the museum in terms of its programming. So this was really the best time for me to leave."
Colburn said that the museum is looking within its ranks for a replacement at the moment, and plans to reconfigure the position into more of a full-time job.
Byer said the position has opened up doors within a town he has lived in for years.
"The museum allowed me, as a man who commuted out of town for my entire career in California, to work at what I feel is the most important cultural institution in town," Byer said. "It allowed me to insert myself into the community in a way I was never able to before. I've met more people in the past six years than in the previous 18; that's been a really wonderful thing."
A Laguna resident for more than 20 years, Byer attended Rutgers University and the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., followed by a stint working on a presidential campaign. Later jobs took him from working for a member of Congress to a trade association and a public relations firm.
He spent 17 years at a large health-care corporation, establishing and then running their public affairs operation, before taking a year off and beginning at the museum in Jan. 2001.
"I was able to morph myself from someone who worked with very dry health policy into a person that worked in the arts," Byer said. "I've made some really important friends that I'll have for quite a long time, and that will always be a big treasure to me."
Byer's primary goals are to focus on an upcoming house remodel and take several trips that he and his partner have planned.
"It's tough to go away for a month when you're employed," he said. "I'm fortunate in that I don't have to work, and I really want more time for myself, frankly. I'd love to work on projects, but I really don't want to make a commitment to be in an office or museum every day."
Byer's key services to the museum all revolved around enhanced communication.
"I hope I've made what we do a bit more efficient, and I've tried really hard to promote our exhibitions and our programs to the broadest audience possible," Byer said.
He added that he tried to emphasize relationships and cooperative marketing ventures, rather than focus exclusively on traditional marketing techniques.
He also enhanced the museum's Web presence, including a monthly e-mail newsletter containing events, upcoming exhibitions and other key information.
He said that he still recalls the first event he worked on, an auction.
Having come from a job where he fielded phone calls from the business press regarding medications and hospital release information, he was shocked to find that the first question he received from press at the art auction was, "Why is the apple green?"
"I really loved that question," Byer said. "It was such a great contrast to what I was accustomed to."
Byer still plans to be involved with the Laguna Beach Dance Festival and other nonprofit organizations.
"I hope that as one door shuts, another opens — but I hope it just opens a crack," he said.